Okay, I borrowed the title for this article from the new training book that I’ve written for the American Supply Association (ASA). But you folks who have been reading my articles over the past years know how committed I am to teaching how to sell in a showroom.

Here are a few of the things I feel passionate about regarding showrooms:

  • Owners and managers of wholesalers really learning and being involved in the showroom side of their business.

  • These same owners and managers learning retail and merchandising, and incorporating this knowledge into their showroom operations.

  • Treating showrooms as a separate profit center.

  • Having a three- to five-year business plan for showrooms.

  • Developing an annual showroom budget.

  • Developing an annual marketing plan for showrooms.

  • Learning how to realize a minimum gross profit margin on sales of 35%.

  • Creating a written, formal training program for all showroom employees.

  • Offering a diversity of products - not just the traditional wholesaler products - and being as much of a one-stop-shopping source for kitchen and bath products as possible.

  • Opening up your showroom doors to ALL potential clients and learning how to sell to each group.

  • Not giving away manufacturer model numbers and quoting YOUR net price - not list less a discount.

But the area that I’m most passionate about is making sales training a priority with all showroom sales consultants. Teaching and learning sales skills is the quickest and easiest way to maximize the company’s return on investment and allow sales consultants the opportunity to earn as much money as possible.

ASA recognized this and asked me to write a training manual on the subject. In addition to writing the book, I will be giving about eight full-day workshops on “The Essentials of Profitable Showroom Sales” in 2008. Check the ASA Web site, www.asa.net, for dates and locations - there may be one coming to a city near you!

The book has a dual purpose. First, it will be the workbook/handout you receive when you attend one of the all-day workshops. Second, and more importantly, it’s a workbook you can and should buy from ASA for training in the showroom. The book consists of seven chapters. The goal is for the showroom sales consultant to read a chapter (maybe one per week), take the quiz at the end of the chapter and continue through the book until it is completed. There’s a final exam at the end. Then it’s sent to ASA for grading and the sales consultant receives a certificate of completion that can be framed and displayed. It lets the world know you are a true professional!

Since I first entered the business world I’ve recognized that salespeople were the most important people in business. Think of it this way: Nothing, I mean nothing, happens until the sale is made. There would be no need for purchasing agents, warehouse people, accounting folks or any other position in the company - including the president - if salespeople didn’t sell the products and services that the company offers.

We all know that the selling profession isn’t the most highly regarded profession. In fact, the perception of salespeople is pretty crummy. Too many people have had bad experiences at car dealerships, electronics stores, telemarketers, etc. They often give selling a bad name.

On the flip side, there are hundreds of thousands of professional, highly regarded and highly paid salespeople. I read an article not long ago that indicated there were 14 million salespeople in the U.S. The author said that only 10% could be considered truly “professional” salespeople, which means there are 12,600,000 salespeople out there who are less than professional. That leaves a lot of room for improvement! The author gave some examples of the differences between “professional” and “unprofessional.” Here are a few:

  • Professional salespeople are great listeners; amateurs are always talking.

  • Professional salespeople always do what they say they are going to do; amateurs make promises they don’t keep.

  • Professionals know how to “sell” value about themselves, their company and their products; amateurs are mainly concerned about price.

  • Professionals have learned to focus on what the client wants and needs; amateurs focus on what they’ll be getting out of the sale.

  • Professionals have spent the time, energy and money necessary to learn the true art of selling skills, and they continually practice these techniques; amateurs don’t learn these skills.

Here are some highlights of the new ASA book, “Essentials of Profitable Showroom Sales”:

  • Chapter One focuses on the market potential, targeting new customer groups, sales and marketing plans, gross profit margins, job descriptions and job performance.

  • Chapter Two discusses how to operate a successful showroom, best practices and the client base.

  • Chapter Three addresses sales techniques.

  • Chapter Four explains qualifying clients, product and service presentation and closing the sale.

  • Chapter Five focuses on follow-up after the quote and after the sale.

  • Chapter Six addresses how to calculate and how to improve gross profit margin.

  • Chapter Seven lists keys to success in setting goals, showroom selling, addressing problems or complaints, and analyzing the competition.

This was intended to whet your appetite to pursue both the in-house training and the one-day workshop. Nothing can be more important to you and your company than becoming a true professional sales consultant. Good luck!